Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Addams Family

a film by Barry Sonnenfeld

According to IMDb’s MOVIEmeter, The Addams Family is up 400% in popularity this week. Do you see that often? Anyway, it’s Halloween and this movie probably deserves to be up 1000%. We went to watch it in Saffron Screen today. Apparently, they were giving a prize for the best Halloween costume — that could explain colourfully dressed children and their parents in the audience.

“We danced the Mamushka while Nero fiddled, we danced the Mamushka at Waterloo. We danced the Mamushka for Jack the Ripper, and now, Fester Addams, this Mamushka is for you.”

Friday, 30 October 2009

Fire walk in Cambridge

Tonight, we played for the Fire Walk Challenge at the Cass Centre in Cambridge. Yes, barefoot walk on burning coals. Plus fire jugglers, some of them very skimpily dressed. We were providing accompaniment to the fire walking/juggling, so I couldn’t film any of it. (Also, there was a footie game about 100 yards behind us at the same time, but I don’t think it was a part of the event. I hope they enjoyed our drumming though.) We played three sets, the second set was during the fire walk itself which did not last longer than 20 minutes. The whole event finished much earlier than I expected, probably because the fire jugglers got numb with cold.


Pohjan Laulu in Cape Town

A little more than a year ago (24 October 2008, to be precise), I and my friends spent a great evening at the Finnish Consulate in Cape Town. There was a double bill of Pohjan Laulu from Oulu, Finland, and Capetonian Pro Cantu Youth Choir. Now I am not a big fan of choral music. When Minna first told me about this event, I thought, man, it will be boring. What could be exciting about Finnish all-male choir, dressed in white tie, with most singers in their 50s? I couldn’t be more wrong. Both choirs were excellent, but I was more impressed with Finns (in white tie and in their 50s). Another prejudice gone.

After all the encores, even after Pohjan Laulu sang Finlandia (which, I was told, means no more encores), and after a few more drinks, something amazing happened: four Finns performed The Lion Sleeps Tonight. As they did so, they mocked the tricks employed by Pro Cantu (overtone singing, clapping and imitation of sounds of the forest). Luckily, I had my camera so I can share this gem with you.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Tea on the Blue Sofa: Whispers of Love and Longing from Africa

by Natasha Illum Berg

Last week, I borrowed two books from the library: Loving Sabotage by Amélie Nothomb and Tea on the Blue Sofa by Natasha Illum Berg. I did not know either author and chose the books solely because I liked the titles. Both novels are autobiographical and told from first person. Both, naturally, deal with love. And, by a strange coincidence, both are 136 pages long. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Tea on the Blue Sofa is not as much a novel as a long letter, or series of letters, from Anoushka (the alter ego of Natasha Illum Berg) to her murdered lover. Her grief is intense and real, and I am sure that she had no choice but to write. And that is a problem, at least for me: I felt as if I were reading someone else’s letters or diaries. It is far too personal (and how could it be otherwise?) to engage me. I was struggling to finish the book. Still. It may be not a great literary work, but it is a piece of respectable and unusual writing.

Also, I learned a few words in Swahili. For example: “A boma is a kraal.”

Tick, tock, tick, tock and then there are people who think that time is something that makes things grow, or shrink. But time has nothing to do with most things. A thousand years can not undo the split second it can take for a person to become a murderer, the rest of my life can not undo the few months of love that we had. Time is just a spectator like me. It brings nothing and takes nothing. What makes wounds heal is forgetfulness, not time. If your memory is good enough, time heals no pain and doesn’t blur blissful times.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Loving Sabotage

by Amélie Nothomb

Far too many books about childhood are sentimental, sweet and politically correct. Not this novel by Amélie Nothomb. The protagonist, a seven-year old girl (“I”, otherwise unnamed), is in fact Amélie herself and the book is a true story. (That’s what the author says in the afterword and I totally believe it. No one can invent all this crazy stuff; one has to live it.) I was reading Loving Sabotage on the train in Italy and was so immersed that I almost missed my stop. Nobody ever wrote about war and first love like that.

Take a crowd of children of various nationalities, enclose them in a restricted space built of concrete, and then let them loose, without supervision. Anyone who thinks the kids will extend the hand of friendship to each other is an idiot.
Later in life, when I had achieved either martyrdom or a Nobel Prize in medicine, I would accept these slightly shopworn honors without too much disappointment. For I could always remind myself that while the noblest part of my existence was behind me, it was mine forever. Till my death, I would be able to awe people with the simple sentence: “During the war, I was a pathfinder in Peking.”

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

La fille coupée en deux

a film by Claude Chabrol

Ludivine Sagnier stars in this film by Claude Chabrol as Gabrielle, an attractive and intelligent girl, who — rather unconvincingly — becomes involved with two much less attractive (for the viewer, at least) men. Why did she marry Paul (Benoît Magimel), who is obviously nuts, is anyone’s guess.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


a film by Pete Docter
The 3-D glasses come in handy: not just to showcase the subtle use of that technique — the film-makers rarely resort to attention-seeking tricks like throwing things at a camera — but to hide your tears.
Edward Lawrenson, The Big Issue no. 867.

Finally! Today, we went to see Up. It was well worth the wait.

Speaking of waiting. Do you have to wait all your life before going to Paradise Falls?


Saturday, 17 October 2009

The first five notes

Today we kept practicing the five notes shown below:

The first five notes

This is four notes more than two weeks ago, so now I can (more or less) play this exercise. Music for trombone is written in F-clef, which means that, in distant future, I can re-use some bass music I have.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Valentine’s Day

introduced by Alice Thomas Ellis

This book was an unwanted gift for, well, Valentine’s Day. You would think that neither subtitle (Women Against Men: Stories of Revenge) nor cover art (the famous Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi) are particularly suitable for a Valentine’s Day gift, but here you go. When I was found engrossed in the book, the owners (i.e. recipients of an unwanted gift) gladly parted with it. So in the end everybody was happy.

I wish all the stories in the book were really about revenge of women on men (Accident by Agatha Christie, Beware the Gentle Wife by Deborah Bosley, Stitch and Bitch by Jane Barker Wright and Widow’s Peak by Sylvia Petter are perfect examples), not just intention or desire of revenge. Even so, I enjoyed most of the stories. The French Boy by Amanda Craig is one of the happiest tales, although here men mostly escape unharmed. Instead, Mrs Stevens exerts sort of revenge on her teenage daughters and gets a “French Boy” for herself. The book is concluded with Set in Stone by Pat Knight, the diary of a prehistoric woman (“unfortunately pen and paper not yet invented so have to hack words onto cave walls with flint”).

Monday, 12 October 2009

Drastic Fantastic

by KT Tunstall

Dodgy title notwithstanding, the second studio offering by KT Tunstall is a solid rock/folk/whatever album with a lovable retro feel. I like her singing here much better than on Laughter Through Tears (good thing then that KT and Oi Va Voi parted ways: she’s got her solo career and Oi Va Voi have got brilliant Bridgette Amofah). My favourite songs here are Funnyman (it rocks), acoustic White Bird, and Caribbean-flavoured Someday Soon. I like the album design too: nightmarish black and white comics instead of song lyrics.

Drastic Fantastic

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Beatles on Record

a film by Bob Smeaton

Yesterday, during the Music Technology lesson in Duxford, we watched a bit of this documentary. The point to illustrate was that, while now they use about eight microphones to record a drumkit alone, “in the olden days” they were able to record the bands like The Beatles with just two mikes. (And genius of George Martin of course.) And the sound was great, innit? Also, check out the mixing desk at about 3:30, apparently that was the state of the art at the time, and it still looks cool.

The Beatles on Record

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Weeping Meadow

by Eleni Karaindrou

Every time I describe anything as “beautiful”, I make a mental note not to use this word again. I really should try some other adjectives. Now, listen to music by Eleni Karaindrou and try not to say that it is beautiful.

I did not watch the film. According to many reviews I read, it is a great movie. I also know that it is profoundly tragic. So maybe one day, when I feel an urge to watch a Greek tragedy, I will do so. But for a moment, I am listening to the music.

Weeping Meadow

Sunday, 4 October 2009

La lectrice

a film by Michel Deville

“A seductive comedy for people who like to read in bed”. To be honest, I borrowed this film from the library on the basis of the header alone. And hooray, the film did not disappoint. I loved the story within a story within a story premise, clever and erotic and funny and tasteful. The scenes where the general’s widow (María Casares) asks Marie (Miou-Miou) to read her from Marx/Gorky/Lenin are hilarious. All these actors looked familiar — indeed, they all appeared in numerous (mostly French) films — but no, I couldn’t remember where I saw any one of them.

How to do a few things with trombone

Yesterday, I had my first trombone lesson in Duxford. Within half an hour, I learned quite a few things:
  1. How to blow a raspberry.
  2. How to blow a raspberry into a mouthpiece.
  3. How to assemble the trombone.
  4. How to hold the trombone.
  5. How to blow a raspberry into a mouthpiece when it is attached to the trombone. (The sound produced, I was told, is B♭. “Your family will love it.”)
  6. How to disassemble the trombone.
Armed with all this knowledge, I practiced a little today when there was nobody around.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Roots Controller

by Misty in Roots

Released by Misty in Roots in 2002 after 12-year break, Roots Controller remains their latest album. In fact, only the first six tracks are new (i.e. 2001) material: the rest are re-mastered from their older recordings, including two tracks from their Live At The Counter Eurovision album. No, the band is not dead: later this month, they play at the Musicport Festival in Yorkshire. True, MIR don’t record too often. But when they do it, they do it right.

Roots Controller

Friday, 2 October 2009

Операция «Ы»

a film by Leonid Gaidai

Back in the USSR, Операция «Ы» и другие приключения Шурика (1965) was a film we all were growing with. Often plain silly and occasionally embarrassing (like when Shurik was reciting a poem), but never dull.